Have you been the recipient of grace lately? It’s a swoosh of comfort; a balm of healing; an ointment of relief.
Have you been the giver of grace lately? It’s a nod of affirmation that needs no words; a squeeze of the arm, a spark of warmth in the eyes.
Some of my work includes greeting the public. We are Human Services, so there’s a steady of stream of humans in need of services including family help, parenting classes, addiction referrals, mental health providers and housing.
As a Christian, I am called to serve others with the love of Christ.
As a Christian in a government-run organization, I am restricted in the earthbound realm. Even so, I am wholly free to share His grace in surprisingly easy ways: by showing kindness on the phone, by listening carefully to the client who is confused and distraught, by spilling a bit of laughter into a tense moment.
Grace is tangible; you can feel it rush to the place of pain.
Maybe you’ve heard the story of the small boy who learned that his neighbor was grieving the loss of his wife. The boy asked his mom if he could go next-door and see the man.
When he returned home, the boy’s mom asked what he said to comfort the sad neighbor.
“Nothing,” he replied. “I just sat in his lap and helped him cry.”
Grace is light and airy, but oh! It is profoundly powerful, rippling into a needy world.
Infusing it with hope.
Last year, in preparation to lead a women’s conference, I wrote a poetic essay about the activity of grace. I hope you like it; I hope you recognize the winsome contrast of grace to the stuff we often experience in the day-to-day.
The world is a fist. Grace is an open hand.
The world loves a snappy comeback. Grace loves a kind word.
The world runs from pain. Grace runs toward the hurt.
The world thunders, “Me first!” Grace whispers, “You first.
The world upends. Grace mends.
The world abandons. Grace abides.
The world quits. Grace perseveres.
The world shrugs. Grace hugs.
The world mocks. Grace grieves. Grace re-frames everything.
If you like the idea of grace, giving and accepting it, you might like this children’s book, Will You Hold My Story?
Today, a writer I greatly respect—who is herself a widow—recommended and endorsed Will You Hold My Story for widows. It was such an encouraging surprise for Laura Warfel to publicize this little story. Her act is an act of grace towards me and also towards her followers who seek steps ladders.
In the workplace, in church, at home — wherever your day takes you, Grace is a currency we can all exchange with goodwill and generosity. We can trust the quiet, capable, dynamic activity of grace to heal and heighten and bolster up.
About the Author:
Kathy Joy enjoyed being a popular Christian radio DJ in Colorado for many years. When her husband wanted to move to Pennsylvania to live on a 65-acre farm, Kathy accompanied him with their two young daughters. Four years later, Kathy Joy found herself a widow raising two teenagers. To stave off despair, she began writing three everyday celebrations in a journal. Friends on Facebook began prompting her to write a book, and so the beginning of the Breath of Joy series began. Kathy now works in human services, speaking wonder on the weekends to grief therapy groups, motivational corporate meetings, and women’s retreats. Some of her topics include Vision Board workshops, Being a Harbor Pilot, Mirroring the Savior, The Fifth Season, and Bless Your Socks Off..
Reprinted by permission from her December 19, 2019 blog, Coffee with Kathy.
This message is bathed in hope for the parent who has not heard from her kids, who might not see them at Christmas.
I want you to know it won’t always be this way.
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while,
will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10
My late husband, Roger, was fond of saying, “Let’s make the kind of memories that keep the kids coming back home – even when they’re grown.”
Oh! How I loved Roger’s enthusiasm for special calendar dates – particularly Christmastime and All Things Winter.
To commemorate the First Snow, he and I wrapped a “snow gift” for each of the girls. For gift-wrapping, he used the funny papers.
He was thrilled at the arrival of egg nog in the dairy section – he went nuts with the stuff, pouring it into his morning coffee and grabbing enough cartons to store in the freezer “to get through the winter months”, he would say.
For years, we bundled the girls and searched tree farms for just the right tree to grace our Colorado home.
Every Christmas Eve, he read from Luke’s account of the birth of Christ; when our daughters became readers, they read it out loud to the family.
We had an advent calendar.
He sang the carols, often adding verses he made up on the fly.
He insisted on driving us around the neighborhood to look at the festive light displays.
He was big on memories and minimal on material things.
So many rich traditions, steeped in the wonder of raising our girls; the sweet simplicity of being a family together.
Four months shy of Christmas 2008, Roger died.
The girls were 18 and 15.
A black shadow passed over our little snow globe of a family.
What if they don’t come home?
For three years of emotional drought, they didn’t.
It was dreadful for me, the surviving parent.
A mom who is unsure of her child’s safety and well-being is a pile of misery, and that’s what I was during those lean years.
I won’t go into the whys and the pain of those whys. Grief is weird. A sudden loss can unravel a lifetime and reorder it into something scary, chaotic, unknown.
We all respond in different ways. My daughters turned from me, not in open rejection or hostility, but in the throes of sudden, unexpected loss.
What if they don’t come home?
Christmas during those years was the stark reality of an empty chair, a huge hole he once filled with his larger-than-life-laughter. The emptiness was intensified by my fractured family.
And that star? The one shining in the east? That star was shrouded in a fog of grief and worry; I couldn’t see it through the haze and maze of guilt, fear, anger.
All I could feel was the dull ache of my heart, thumping along in spite of wanting to disappear, to fold up inside my pain.
I’d become an exile to my husband’s family, through a sad myriad of misunderstandings.
Being an outsider to in-laws, that’s pretty hard to deal with. Being an outsider to your own kids – that’s impossible to endure.
Then, we had a series of fun celebrations together. Endearment was restored like a chain of Christmas lights getting the dud bulbs replaced so that the whole string twinkles, unbroken.
Covid 19 has crimped the style of families everywhere. For our safety, holiday celebrations are limited, shops, even grocery stores, and home celebrations closed down. We are given tips on how to keep children safe and parents informed during 2021.
During Thanksgiving, people posted humble but joyful pictures of their small feasts for two, three, and even singular plates on social media. They called it the war of light and loveliness on the darkness of this holiday season. Still, when I called my own mother to tell her that I had been exposed to the disease at work and could not risk her health, she wept. She and I both sat alone with our thoughts this Thanksgiving, like many others.
My adult girls remember their dad’s corny jokes. They ask about his favorite movies, then they watch them. But, there are many episodes of tragic family attitudes and events in our history, and probably in yours, that haunt our current decisions and lives. Parents are blamed for decisions they didn’t have the wherewithal to tackle; they should have been wiser. Children are not excused because they were trained up better than that.
Helplessly, we grapple for promises of better days from the only One who can provide these to us.
The Lord has promised to restore what the locust has eaten.
I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you. “You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
Does this promise mean today, tomorrow, or next year? I believe He does restore our souls in mysterious ways, and we can depend on that, but it doesn’t always look the way we want it to look. And, this is why our faith is often called a “walk of faith” “traveling in darkness” “running the race” because we don’t bear our weights in vain. They make us stronger.
We honor Roger’s memory in small, sweet ways. We laugh a lot, we cry some, we laugh some more.
His name is a regular part of our conversation.
Before, we avoided saying it for fear our brittle voices would break and scatter on the floor.
We can now dream of the future and we know the strength of forgiveness, the binding up of wounds.
My daughters call regularly to check in on me; my oldest planned a June wedding and made it happen even in the pandemic, and it was a landmark memory I will always cherish.
It’s not a Hallmark movie; there are still some things quietly coming to the light to be dealt with as we continue forward.
Cars break down, we have health scares, there are often misunderstandings to be ironed out. The point is, we’re doing life together again – as an extended family finds ways to do so.
This year, I celebrate the many times the kids and I have been together. It has been a hard year once again, but I am stronger and more creative than I once was. They will come home for Christmas another time.
And that star? The one shining in the east? That star is a glowing reminder of God’s presence, His longing to be in a relationship with us. He traveled from His heavenly home and spiritual body to become human and to wander in a strange, unwelcoming place. It meant everything for Him to do that.
It seems, in this murky year of unknowns, that we have all become bridge builders. By this, I mean we are learning to construct organic passageways between problems and solutions; we are building new platforms to help each other succeed.
A co-worker said it this way: “We are discovering new ways to do old things.”
She’s not wrong. If the word “innovative” carries any weight on a resume, then we need to add that to our portfolios.
Influencers are bridges between ideas and implementation. Let the intangible beget the tangible.
Friends are bridges between opportunity and reality.
Co-workers are bridges between dull days and brighter ones.
Connections are bridges between prayers and answers.
Recently, I was a recipient of one of these bridges between opportunity and reality and between prayers and answers. My publisher announced a connection to make my children’s book sing. “Will You Hold My Story?” is the recipient of some 32 illustrations of Brianna Osaseri, an winning artist who has agreed to produce poignant and imaginative works for the 32- page picture book.
I happened to be going through a particularly difficult time, and I can’t tell you how seeing these fascinating images elevated my sense of wonder about the story and added even more purpose.
When there’s a problem, there is a wonderful collaboration available to each of us with just an earnest request. Unseen reinforcements rush in like healthy blood to a wound. Bridges are built for walking into the future.
Virtual meetings, emails, phone calls, whatever it takes – the work is getting done and readers, or our customers, or clients are being helped.
More than a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done attitude, it’s a large-scale scaffolding that materializes right under our feet, wherever we need reinforcements. Some people call this scaffolding “answers to prayer.” Others call it “favor,” “blessing,” “feeling the love.” No matter what you call it, we each know when we are in desperate need of it. And, we each know when we receive it.
It’s a coming-together of talent, experience, and care.
It’s the filling of a cup.
It’s the measures taken to keep us safe.
These are the bridges to each other’s stories, and to hope.
I, for one, am looking more closely at life for any random blessings that can provide walkways to better days for me and maybe for you:
an encouraging message on your voice mail, “Don’t think that for one moment, you are forgotten, Deary!”
that cup of coffee on a cold morning, and reading the review someone left on your last book.
a holiday card, whether it’s full of giggles or full of pathos,
help from a co-worker on a difficult issue
passing along someone’s story explaining a surprising twist of events when their own need was answered, miraculously
savoring the unique texture of a loved-one’s voice;
all of these, and more, are carrying us and moving us forward.
One of my favorite ways to help someone else along is to congratulate them with words or cards for an accomplishment.
It would be so easy for me to ignore their big win and to think, “Why isn’t it my day to reach the summit?”
My guess is, we will emerge from this wilderness seasoned hikers.
Do you recall doing something like this? As a child, I’d grin showing an adult my palms up, the inside of my cathedral made of my interwoven fingers, and I’d sing, “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open it up and here’s all the people!” Then, hiding all my fingers, I’d ask the patient adult, “Where are all the people?”
We adults still need other patient adults to make us some two-way bridges, don’t we? I need to show up for you on the bridge. You need to show up for yourself and also for someone else on your bridge. Let’s look for one new way to receive a good step forward. Let’s offer a bridge to someone else today in kindness or compassion.
At the summit, we will look down to see we have built networks, catwalks and swinging bridges we’d never before imagined. Intricate networks.
When you’ve built a bridge, you’ve constructed a cathedral of strength and beauty.
Even if it is intangible.
Kathy Joy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Messiah College (Grantham, Pennsylvania) having majored in Journalism and Communication. Her career focused on radio journalism and later on government social work for family members with children in the Pennsylvania system of health and welfare. She is the author of four previous books, the series called Breath of Joy.
Her personal philosophy is that “by telling our stories, we give others permission to unload their own weights and worries.”
Most recently, Kathy Joy’s children’s book is scheduled to be published early in 2021, entitled, “Will You Hold My Story?” It features a stray little pooch and a stray, tired Meggi Beth (depicted by artist, Brianna Osaseri).
Kathy is an enthusiastic supporter of therapy dogs and dogs-in-general – they are loyal friends and excellent listeners.
As the author of four seasonal books, a social media influencer and inspirational speaker, Kathy Joy has found her voice in the world of children’s literature.
Kathy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communication and says her favorite semester at Messiah College included the study of children’s books.
So many of life’s decisions are money-driven: which college is most affordable for my graduate? … will the family be okay if something happens to me? … should I retire now, or wait a few years? … are those investments growing or will they be in the tank soon? Curbside, or in-store shopping?
It’s a luxury, really, to be able to ask these questions. Many of the families we affect through our writings are wondering how to heat the house, never mind investments or 401-K’s.
They are scrambling to keep the kids in school and deciding which creditors can be paid this month. Sure, some regrettable choices have landed them in a world of hurt, but aren’t we all one emotion shy of making the wrong choice?
Our resilient hearts are possibly the most valuable currency we have. One thing we can all bank on, for sure: we have the currency of caring.
These intangibles — these treasures of survival — are the currency that can never be stolen, lost or wrongly invested.
Let’s take a look at our impressive portfolio:
We have …
The bankroll of unexpected blessings.
The treasury of compassion.
The cache of childlike wonder.
The treasure chest of non-judgment.
The abundance of laughter.
The nest egg of Resilience.
The wealth of watchfulness; of caring for ourselves and each other.
The riches of simple joys, shared.
We have the coinage of humility; something we all should carry like extra quarters in our pockets if only to feed the meter of kindness.
Tending to life.
A brief little phrase that packs a wallop.
Can we all just take a moment for:
An elbow-bump, maybe even an air hug?
How about making soup for a shut in neighbor?
Taking a few minutes to shovel the sidewalk for someone else?
It just feels like Hope x 1,000 when I look around and see us tending to life.
As we continue being tossed and jostled by the turbulent waters of Covid-19 and a contentious election year, may we emerge smoothed and beautiful – like polished beach glass.
Kathy Joy is the author of the Breath of Joy Series and Will You Hold My Story, a child’s picture book, to be released in early 2021.
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My house is getting colder by the moment. I think I’ll go down and turn up the heat. Just a moment. I’ll be right back.
Okay. You know how that is, adjusting the thermostat by the ups and downs in fall as winter approaches, and the warming up days of spring only to be downcast by a late winter storm? I’m sure that’s why God made us pets to hold and help us through these uncertain times.
I used to take these walks with my dog, but I myself am in a time between times now, and I have to walk by myself. So, I step onto the nano-seconds with the fallen leaves and bright sunrises and sunsets, electric rains, and bristling winds.
In these private times, I give thanks for many things past, present, and future.
Once you’ve lost this, you can never get it back; what is it?
The Time Between Times
Have you noticed how Thanksgiving tends to get lost in the time between times?
Decorations and celebration planning hops right over Thanksgiving like we are guided to hop from the treats of Halloween right into the serious celebrations of Christmas and the duties of gift-giving.
When do we get to spontaneously pause and reflect, it’s because we’ve stolen time away from these carefully sculpted hours for a private moment.
I’ve written a series of seasonal books for winter, spring, summer, and fall (autumn) celebrating Thanksgiving and hospitality. My books use the nano-seconds as stepping stones, pauses to reflect, similar to you’d use a labyrinth.
Sometimes, when these seconds slow down, I discover treasures and turns of phrases. I find myself reaching in, reaching out, praying.
A Nano-Second of Impulse
I’m not an independently wealthy author. I work a day job at the front desk behind glass. Today at my place of work, we got an email about burnout, which many of us are experiencing.
One of the perks of working in a glass bowl is that you get to see what’s happening outside. I’ve witnessed some interesting moments, plus a few things I’d rather un-see if that were even possible. Outside the door to my place of work, humanity passes by on skateboards, pushing strollers, in sneakered youth and well-shod business attire. I’ve seen army recruiters, pre-med students, construction workers, and grub hub drivers; bicyclists, policemen, delivery trucks, and dog walkers.
I’ve laughed to see people leaning close to the glass to examine their teeth, fix their hair, or admire their physique; the glass is a great mirror for them and a handy camouflage for me.
Back in the before-days, it was a common delight to see small tots on a daycare outing, holding hands, or maybe grabbing onto a long cord and marching in a wiggly line.
These days, everybody is hyper-alert.
This over-stretched year of Covid is marked by caution, measured in tiny increments of care, and burdened by restraints that brush by us and tip over our natural human boundaries. Humanity is unable to cope with robotic demands for long.
I want to shout, are we tripping over our own watchfulness, calculating every move; hesitating over every decision?
Whatever happened to healthy distractions, good old spontaneity?
A friend I’ve been missing tells me, “There’s simply no room for the unknown; the unplanned.“
It’s been raining lately, that off and on drizzle that makes you want to stay in bed. The persistent showers are cloaking the sky in a steely gray curtain. Occasionally we get a glimpse of soft pearly clouds, like the inside of an oyster shell. It’s the kind of weather for becoming a mirror of my ceilings, becoming a well-polished pearl.
If you have to go out, the umbrella is up and the head is down. Jackets are pulled snug. That’s why, while stealing a look at the world passing by, something caught my eye.
Spontaneity kicked to the curb, my ache for one rare and splendid moment is rewarded through the mist of incessant drizzle.
Some guy stood in a puddle.
He was standing in – not avoiding – a puddle.
He stomped one foot, then the other, and watched the spray fly upward.
A smile emerged from his face, then I was smiling, too.
He leaned down for a look at his soaked shoes. Wildly, he swept the puddle with one foot, then the other. Then he jumped.
The light changed, cars passed, and still, he stood there, sloshing in the cold rainwater.
I’d have expected this from a youngster, but this – this was a grownup; a man, roughly in his 40’s. It’s hard to tell.
Impossible to know whether he was a traveler, a vagrant, an executive who’d just lost his job, or perhaps a professor. It doesn’t matter. All speculations are off when you are splashing in puddles.
The world stopped for a moment.
He did not notice me watching from the office window. He did not care about ruined shoes or wet trousers. He wasn’t concerned with anything, except the lure of impulse.
When I turned around for another look, of course, he was gone.
While the world was joining Zoom, masking up and maintaining an abundance of caution, this guy had an appointment with a mud puddle. A meeting, he honored. With reckless abandon. At the southwest corner of 9th and Sass, with St. Pete’s Cathedral towering over it all, a basic human emotion was felt: spontaneity.
And I got to see it, to feel the joy of it.
Our hearts need mending, our souls need healing, and our bodies need rest…one splendid moment at a time.